When Dorothea Mackellar described Australia as “A Sunburnt Country”, she wasn’t exaggerating. The Australian sun is hot. Really hot. I’m not even sure we have an ozone layer anymore. Match this with skin that gets irritated by even a stiff breeze and you have a problem. I’m not sure where I get my pastiness from, but I’m pretty sure if you looked it up you would find Dracula in my family tree. The hot season is a minefield for those who were blessed with skin like a hairless Siamese cat, and these are the main factors us pale folk face during battle.
This probably doesn’t require an explanation. I enjoy the sun as much as the next warm-blooded Australian, but it is company that I can only share with extreme caution. The few times I have thought “I can wait five minutes before applying sunscreen” have resulted in me looking like I spent the day in a human-sized rotisserie and the application of aloe vera gel by the liter. And despite being in the sun less, us fair skins seem to have more worrisome freckles and moles than our tanned peers. This often results in a trip to Google Images where we are sucked further and further into a vortex of fear and reminded it is probably better to just stay indoors. Always.
The Pressure to be a “Bronzed Aussie”
“You really need to get a tan.. Wow, thank you. I had never really thought of it but now that you mention it, I’ll just pop outside and be golden in no time! Honestly, if I hear this brilliant advice from one more person I’m going to go full Edward Scissorhands on their ass. I’m sure he copped it on the daily. “But like, aren’t Australians meant to be tanned?” Who on earth started this ridiculous rumor? It’s true that we have our share of coastline fit for sunbaking, but is everyone forgetting that the majority of us are of British descent, aka, the land of the gingers? This unfair expectation will drive many a person to the bottle. The fake tan bottle. In search of that summer glow that says “I’ve just spent the week sipping mojitos on Bondi Beach.. What it usually ends up saying instead is “I just took a dip in some orange clay and I may or may not have leprosy. On the odd occasion where a successful spray tan is achieved, my smugness is brought to a halt when I realize I’ve just been brought up to normal Caucasian color.
First off, it is my personal belief that no swimsuit looks good on pale skin. Secondly, if I do decide to brave the judgmental looks from others, it may be the last thing they see, because the sun bouncing off this white flesh creates a very real optical hazard. Protective eyewear must be worn. The third swimming dilemma occurs when your makeup comes off in the water. While my tanned friends look fresh and healthy with their natural faces, my concealer-less eyes have people wondering who invited Gollum on the boat trip. I have found it’s easier to verify that, yes, I am sick, while people stare at my ghostly complexion, as I’ve had enough awkward “no, this is just my face” conversations to know I would like to avoid them. And finally, that layer of sunscreen you carefully applied? That’s now floating down the river. It would probably be easier to sprout gills and join the other mere folk underwater than to keep up with the sun protection needed to shield my fragile, pasty body from the piercing rays of the sun.
Summer in Australia encompasses Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and for me, my birthday. So basically December through February is an endless string of photographs next to my glowing acquaintances. I used to feel complimented when my friends wanted to stand next to me for those Kodak moments, but now I realize it’s just so they can look extra sun-kissed in comparison to the 5 foot 5 of porcelain by their side. Accustomed to my white opacity, I have nailed the lighting and filter application required to confirm that I actually am alive. But when someone else takes a photo, forget it. With the flash of a bulb I basically disappear into the ethers. Goodbye, facial features. It was nice knowing you.
The Color Yellow
Who doesn’t want to look like sunshine? Yellow is a popular choice to wear when one wants to leave the impression that they spend their warm afternoons frolicking in fields of sunflowers and drinking lemonade. For me, however, it indicates I may be queasy or have jaundice. Cheery. Also off the pale skin wardrobe list is black, which shouldn’t be worn if you want to avoid looking like you’re on your way to a Satanist convention or a member of the Addams family. Although the emo look was popular in the early 2000’s, I don’t think it’s making a comeback any time soon.
So yes, surviving the Australian summer for me has basically whittled down to getting through my day without turning into a potato chip. Until they create a water resistant SPF 100 skin cream that gives me a glow without staining the underarms of all my clothing, it’s an indoor season for me.
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